Saturday, March 21, 2015

den: the shelves are DONE!

Today I’ll share my favorite part of our updated den — our DIY shelving unit! Please excuse all of the crazy shadows in the pictures. See, I had beautiful naturally lit photographs, but when I went to post them I realized I didn’t have any art in two of the frames. Then a few episodes of Arrested Development and a big bowl of pork ragu happened, and all of a sudden it was dark out!

Worth it.

The biggest transformation in the room was going from this:

To this:

I had the best time putting up several of the books and decorative objects I’ve collected over the years. Really, the hardest part of the styling process was choosing to say "no” to a bunch of my favorite objects in order to keep the shelves from looking cluttered.

I don’t mind the way the top shelf looks with the left side being blank, but I’m going to try putting a vine-y plant up there. I spent TWO HOURS in Michaels the other day looking at artificial plants! My mom saved the day by offering to give me an offshoot of her Philodendron.

I was originally planning to use my agate bookends on this bottom shelf, but my colorful books distracted from the agate and they got sort of lost in all the color. I picked up 4” clamps for $8 each at Home Depot and voilĂ !

These hanging frames at World Market caught my eye and I knew they’d be perfect for this spot. The art is a page from a book of quotes that I tore out and cut in half. I originally bought a beautiful faux mother of pearl box for the shelves, but I ended up having the same problem with the box that I had had with the agate bookends. It was really hard for me to return it (I’m still having second thoughts), but the basket I replaced it with was much cheaper and is less distracting. 

I had a mini freak-out when I saw this brass stand magnifier at an antique mall in Georgia. It is one of my very favorite things. The large piece of art is my “big” souvenir from my Europe trip. It’s a pen and ink of Salzburg, Vienna, with gorgeous watercolor detail. It happened to fit perfectly in an empty frame and mat that my parents had given me on one of my many “Becker basement shopping sprees.” (The bell was also taken from their basement. Thanks, mom and dad!)

The picture in my prism frame is cut from a postcard I bought at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. 

For $6, you too can have a ridiculous looking eyeglass holder that will make you smile.

Believe it or not, I’ve been keeping my eye out for a trophy cup for nearly a year now. This cup, from one of my favorite shops, is the perfect size and it has a gorgeous patina. 

There you have it! I am loving these shelves. I didn’t enjoy spending time in the den for a long time because of how cluttered it was. Now it’s a lovely space that I look forward to cozying up in.

Come on over! :)

Trunk – from my childhood
Shelving unit materials – Home Depot
C-clamp bookends – Home Depot
Trophy cup – The Cottage in Dayton, VA
Rhinoceros – Kohls
Vintage camera – thrifted
Armillery sphere – gifted (World Market)
Hanging frames – World Market 
Rectangular basket – Michaels 
Prism frame – Retro Metro (also available at Bed Bath & Beyond and CB2)
Brass bell – gifted 
Salzburg print – gallery in Salzburg, Austria
Mat and frame around Salzburg print – gifted
Magnifying glass holder – Canton Street Antique Market in Roswell, GA
Eyeglass holder – World Market 
Brass antelope bookends – from grandmother
Gold clock – awarded to Andy from Kellogg’s!
Vintage set of “works of” books – from grandmother

Monday, March 16, 2015

on a Sunday in March

We’ve only been to church a handful of times this year (after a seven-month-long stretch of staying home). I haven’t wanted to participate in worship, so we arrive late. We hurry out after the sermon ends, because I haven’t wanted to run into anyone who hasn’t seen me since last May.

We were late yesterday, but the worship team was still playing as we scooted past a beautiful family of six, including an infant. My heart began to race when I recognized the song as “The Lord Our God” by Kristian Stanfill. The last time I heard that song was when I was pregnant with Jane. I even blogged about it.

I can hardly bear to go back and read through the posts I’ve written about my grief. Sometimes I can’t believe it’s me that is experiencing all of those emotions and bearing all of that (this) pain. When I wrote that post in June I was terrified out of my mind, but deep down I believed our baby would be healthy. I listened to that song and thought God WAS leading us out of our dark grief from John and into a time of joy with our second baby. My most prayed prayer over my second pregnancy was that God would be delighted to give us a healthy baby — that it would bring Him joy. I thought with a prayer like that, surely I will get to hold this baby and watch it grow.

I threw myself into desperately hoping, desperately praying, desperately reciting verses... and when I got home from the hospital after saying goodbye to my second baby, I was, and continue to be, simply desperate.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
-Psalm 73:26

I don’t know why, or even how exactly, but my mouth opened in church yesterday and the words came spilling out. I heard my husband’s voice softly rising alongside mine.

Still we can know you are good.

I imagined what we looked like to God... two of His people, weary and heartbroken, lifting their voices in obedience and faith. We sang knowing full well God could have given us healthy babies. We sang knowing full well only God knows our future. We sang knowing full well this hard road we’re on may be longer than we’d like.

Tiny step after tiny step, we move forward.

Friday, March 13, 2015

the den slump

IT ISN’T DONE, PEOPLE. (Long, boring story.) Most of my books are piled in laundry baskets and our basement guest room looks like... well, like this:

Updating the den has been a lot of fun for me, but it’s also been taking (wait, grab a pretend flashlight and point it under your chin, Sandlot style and say it with me now)... FOR-EV-ER. I started shopping for the room six months ago! Changes inside the room started two months ago. Yeah, I thought I’d be done by now.

One of my favorite design bloggers, Emily Henderson, recently posted an update on her family room, and her honesty about her lack of progress made me sigh with relief. Emily bought her home in the fall of 2013. She first wrote about her family room in early 2014. It’s a mess. Fast forward to November ’14, where she posted about some progress that had been made. Notice there’s no art on the walls (except for during the photo shoot) and the pieces of furniture are all “works for now” kinds of pieces. She just gave readers another update of the room, as of February 2015. (Though to be honest, with the way many bloggers plan and draft posts, the room could be completely done right now and we just don’t know it yet.)

Emily is a successful designer and stylist. She’s had her own show on HGTV, she’s been featured in countless magazines and she was (is?) the home style expert for Target. Between her knack for great design and her bigger-than-mine income, she could pull her dream family room together faster than a year and a half. But she hasn’t! And I love that! :)

So, no den reveal quite yet. In the meantime I’ve been re-decorating the ladder bookcases in our living room and trying to “shop” in other rooms of the house so I’ll have plenty of options when I eventually style the shelves in the den. So far I’ve pulled a few bookends from the living room, a lidded basket from my bathroom, picture frames from our “Craigslist room” and a bunch of postcards that I had forgotten were in the back of the guest room closet.

I was hoping to put art up today, but last night Andy asked if I’d be open to putting a TV in the den. Attached to the wall. This should not be a big deal, but I’m the kind of person who internally freaks out whenever a slight change is made to her plans. We shall see.

Even though the den isn’t done, I’m already much happier in the space. I have a new little spot to sit and read! Here’s a tiny sneak peak:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Old Bay wings with homemade blue cheese sauce

I’ve been in a bit of a cooking rut and was relieved THRILLED when Andy suggested I try making Old Bay wings. Old Bay wings make my heart go pitter-patter. It’s almost embarrassing how much I think and talk about them.

It took ages for me to find a recipe for baked wings that sounded right. I used a method I found on Recipe Tin Eats, adapted the seasoning, and was blown away by the result. Andy’s head was in a constant state of nodding “YES” the entire time he ate. :)

We had such an incredible blue cheese sauce during our Valentine’s dinner at Dan’s Restaurant & Tap House in Boonsboro that I had to ask the waitress what ingredients went into making it. I’m happy to say my attempts to re-create it were successful! (So successful I was eating it like soup.)

note: I had to cut the following wing recipe in half because my oven isn’t quite big enough for two large pans to fit side by side. I think I could make it work if I used one large and one medium pan. There were 26 wings in the package I picked up, and I cooked 14 last night. I’m going to make the rest today. We munched on salad and raw carrots dipped in blue cheese waiting for the wings to cook, so we were plenty full by the time the chicken bones were picked clean.

I was too busy grubbing to take a picture. This is from Andy’s cell phone!

Baked Old Bay wings
serves 4
  • 4 lbs chicken wings, separated into sections (thaw them if using frozen wings)
  • 2 heaping Tbsp baking powder
  • 3-4 Tbsp Old Bay
1. Arrange your oven racks to use the second to lowest and second to highest racks. (Positions 2 and 4.) Set oven to 250.
2. Pat down wings with a paper towel until they’re dry, then place them in a large ziplock bag with the baking powder. Shake until coated, then add Old Bay and shake to coat until both sides of every wing is mostly coated in spice.
3. Line a baking pan with foil and arrange the wings on the top.* It’s okay if they’re snug!
4. Bake the wings on your second to lowest rack in the oven for 30 minutes.
5. Increase the heat to 425 and move your wings up to the second highest rack. Cook for another 50 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.
6. Let the wings rest for 5 minutes before eating. Test the skin with your fingertip, and if it’s not crispy you can cook the wings a little longer. If you have a meat thermometer, check that they’re fully cooked (165 degrees.)

*I used to put the wings on a Pam-sprayed wire rack over the foil-lined pan, but I forgot to use it on my third go of making this dish and the wings turned out to be my crispiest yet. 

Blue cheese sauce (also great on top of steak or a burger)
serves 4

best made 30 or so minutes before serving. I like to make it while the wings are baking.
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 package of crumbled blue cheese
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice, to taste (I preferred 2 tsp)
  • pepper to taste
1. Sauté shallot slices in oil over medium-low heat for 5 or so minutes until the shallots are soft and slightly browned. Drain oil from the pan.
2. Mix remaining ingredients togetherand add the shallots.

* I mix the ingredients in the same pan as the shallots and then refrigerate it until cool. You don’t have to heat up the dip, it will mix fine cold — but I like for half of the blue cheese to melt.)